Thursday, August 21, 2014


Thou hast not half the power to do me harm, as I have to be hurt.
 ~ William Shakespeare:  Othello

Another distinct honor occurred for me this week, I was interviewed for a national publication, AARP. Once, I got over myself and the reality that yes, I indeed am now a member of the AARP target demographic I was humbled by and grateful for the invitation to share a little of my story, reminding me of a great teaching in my traumatic stress of grief...

Probate.  The court process by which a will is proved to be valid or invalid.  Probate.  The legal process wherein the estate of a decedent is administered.  

The law is purposefully designed to be impersonal and insensitive; legal procedures are intentionally cold, methodical, and systematic; a Dragnet, Joe Friday, "Just the facts ma'am." routine.  While the purpose is to protect and look after the best interests of all parties involved without emotional involvement, it doesn't always seem to play that way.  When you have experienced a deep emotional or physical wound, mental logic is lost and the entire experience comes off as dehumanizing; sometimes more painful than the original wound itself.  In the area of wills, estates, and probate it is a powerful potion of retraumatizing salt to the already lacerated heart of a widow (or widower) who's sutures have barely begun to scar over only to have them ripped open again, and again, and again.  This has been my experience, one I akin to as a form of P.T.S.D. (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

The Mayo Clinic describes P.T.S.D. as, "a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event - either experiencing it or witnessing it.  Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.  While I have never officially been diagnosed, I do draw similar, often close, mimicking comparisons which I learned through my grief recovery therapy, that were greatly triggered through my dealings of probate - - another avenue of the business-side of death like I recently wrote of (read L.G.).  This avenue, however, is very costly in money, time, and emotional suffering.

First came having to find everything, documentation to be specific, only to discover that Boomer's will was 15 years old - - predating our marriage.   My knucklehead husband never updated it.  Boomer tipped me off to that while laying in the e.r. (read: Reality), when a doctor asked him if he had a will and he said, "Yes, but it's not updated to include Shannon."   There began the recurring p.t.s.d. nightmare to endure - - painful, harsh and always appearing to have no end in sight.  
Lake Michigan excursion, August, 2009.  
Next, came learning an attorney would be needed, for several reasons:  the out-dated will, Boomer died in a state other than where the will was originated (read Florida),  administration of all his outstanding debts/liabilities at the time of his death.  I soon learned a second attorney was necessary - - specifically for me - - the omitted spouse or in legalese, the pretermitted spouse.  Sexy and romantic isn't it?  The legalese of it all is another p.t.s.d. trigger because it's language that in my post-death trauma state, I can neither  comprehend nor speak.  It's painfully impersonal.  This was where my father's circumspect warning of my insignificance haunts me (read: Woman) and disappointingly validated his alarm.  

The only perceived value I had when it came to the business of Boomer's estate was that I was resource do to the grunt work.   Initially I offered to take on administration of the estate, because being local near the court seemed to be the smoother, efficient, and more cost-effective approach.  My offer was rebuffed and I was dismissed, ignored and yet ironically, repeatedly delegated to to deal with Boomer's affairs.  It only got worse when I opted-out, to focus on taking care of myself, healing, looking after my interests instead of protecting the emotions of others and being an enabler.   With every interaction with anyone affiliated with Boomer's estate  my p.t.s.d flared.  I didn't think I'd survive.  This is no exaggeration.  My mental health was already beaten up just in Boomer's death alone, then came the belittling, lies, judgement, criticism, that together, with continually prolonged process was the bully perpetuating the nightmare that flares my p.t.s.d.   It also strikes the difficulties Boomer and I had around the alcoholism (read:  Bowing and Maya) that killed him.

In another area of my own ignorance (read: Do Better) around death, grief, and probate, my p.t.s.d. flared when my own attorney ceased working my case because I ran out of money from all the expenses I incurred related to Boomer's death and couldn't pay him an outstanding $1,800.  It didn't matter what a cooperative, responsive, prompt paying, trusting client I'd been to that point, when the money ran out - so the did the support.  Cold, methodical.   In the fragile mind of the bereaved, this bereaved, I was again abandoned - - dad's words haunting me - insignificant and unimportant - I don't matter.  In the business of death, it's never personal, it's business, even in the legal side, it's just about the moolah.

That's where I stand apart.  I don't care about the dough.  Dignity, respect, gratitude, compassion, empathy, and doing the right thing, for right reasons are what matter to me.   In my naivete and personal trauma,  I was grasping for any morsel outside myself that I could get to help me get over my pain.  It was an absolute impossibility with clashing values, priorities, and motives.

My number one plea to husbands and wives alike - - get your paperwork in order - - STAT!  Please - please - please -  DO NOT do this to the ones you  love and who love you.  It's unnecessarily cruel to not have your affairs current and in order and really not difficult to do.   My personal will was updated within 2 months after Boomer died; I review it for updates annually, sooner if a significant event occurs.   I learned from my very own experience.  I learned from Boomer.   I hope you do too. 

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